We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Nickels and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Recalibrating my work-life balance has been one of the biggest transformations I’ve undergone. I was raised in a society that believes that having a full-time job equals success. So when every action and step you take becomes geared towards a future destination of success and stability, you make a lot of life sacrifices to stick to that course. It took until about my mid-twenties and two abrupt job lay-offs, forcing me into a more piece-meal freelance existence, to start questioning if that course was mine or just one I adopted at a young age. I came to find the course I actually wanted to pursue, music, was a very far departure from where I was. This was a terrifying realization having fully committed down the other course, to the extent of getting married and living in California for my career. I felt like I couldn’t switch courses without imploding my life and to a certain extent, I was right. But with everything inside of me directing me to go after what I actually wanted, I made some extremely difficult sacrifices, including a divorce, because I knew I would always wonder “what-if” and had a sense of knowing that I would be unhappy if I didn’t.
When I left everything behind and started again, the journey towards a more balanced work-life began, but first I had to go to the polar opposite lifestyle of what I was previously living. If before I was living the safe, practical existence, I stepped into the fear-crippling unknown of $20K credit card debt and moving half-way across the world without a job to busk on the streets of Scotland to pursue my music career. I was horrified, but I knew it was what I wanted. So I took the leap of faith. I believe it’s easier to find a balance in life if you live both ends of the spectrum first, because without that, how could you know the mid-point? Now, a year later, I’ve found myself in a situation that closely resembles what I believe to be a balanced state of my work and life. I work just enough to financially support myself and spend the rest of my time focusing on being a musician, a writer, and first and foremost: simply living. When I reframed my life around following my heart and intuition, something incredible happened. All of the perceived obstacles and fears my mind concocted, ended up not being so scary after all. That $20K debt? All, but gone within a year. But I had to push through the long months of doubt, unemployment, fear, and uncertainty holding onto a flicker of hope, faith, and an inner knowing that everything would be alright, to find that out.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Just like my life has been, my art has been a bit all over the place. I have a lot of projects in the works, but I’m enjoying taking a hiatus from them to get back to what matters most to me right now: being present with my family before I move.
I am most proud and excited about the woman I’ve become. Where I am professionally has everything to do with my relentless internal excavation to understand “who I am” that I’ve undertaken over the past two years. My aforementioned work-life balance was a byproduct of stabilizing the inner dissonances that had been running my outer life, unknowingly, for the last 25 years of my life. Was it easy? Yes and no. Yes, because who I am has always been there inside me waiting patiently. No, because I had to sift through and discard a lot of things I thought I was that weren’t me to remember that. Remembering who I am is the foundation of all of the art I’ve produced since then through a variety of outlets: a folk band in Edinburgh called Peaks & Valleys, my own singer-songwriter career as Kelly Nickels, a semi-biographical musical called Evolution of A Girl, and a freelance writing career for Wakeful Travel.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons, but the one I really want to share with you is to be true to who you are. It’s really easy to be who other people want you to be, who you think they want you to be, what society deems as appropriate or successful, but at the end of the day, the greatest gift we can give this world is our authenticity. Don’t let anything dim the light inside of you.
All I want people to know about me and my story is that I’m still learning. When I think I know something, I am constantly humbled to an acceptance of not knowing anything at all. There is so much we claim to know that can’t be known. All of my art and music moving forward will be an attempt to articulate what cannot be articulated. To make you feel what can only be felt.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
So I’m kind of the worst representative of Los Angeles. I actually don’t live here anymore, which makes it kind of hilarious that I’m taking part in this. I recently moved from LA to temporarily stay with my family in Texas before I relocate to Scotland in the coming months. I lived in Los Angeles for a little over two years, but I mostly kept to my North Hollywood bubble. If my best friend and I ended up in LA, I’d probably rent a car and drive to Malibu to walk around Point Dume. I’d revisit my neighborhood in NoHo and visit my favorite pie shop, Republic of Pie, to have a slice of their bangin’ cherry pie. Beyond that, I’d want the rest to be unplanned and spontaneous. I think that’s the best way to experience the essence of a city.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
He’s probably sick of me saying this by now, but I dedicate my shout-out to Cammy Dewar, because without our fateful meeting on my two-week trip to Scotland, I wouldn’t have taken the plunge into the abyss to follow my heart and dreams. Cammy Dewar is an incredible guitar player, singer-songwriter, poet, chef, and one of my best friends. Meeting him busking in a tunnel on Victoria Street two years ago was the most profound catalyst I could have never expected to encounter in this lifetime. Day One, he believed in me when I hadn’t even learned to fully believe in myself.
My trip to Scotland made it abundantly clear that my heart was in Edinburgh and that I was meant to share my music not only alongside him but alongside the beautiful Edinburgh music community that graciously welcomed me in with open arms. Cammy, thanks eternally for unknowingly giving me the push I needed to chase my dreams. And shoutout to me, for learning to believe in myself independently along the way too.
Instagram: @kelly_nickels, @peaksandvalleysduo, @evolutionofagirlmusical
Other: Wakeful Travel – https://www.wakefultravel.com/blogs/journal
Charissa Clark, Seb Akerman, Alan Wilson